An invasion of Romanian gipsy orphans has left a British town facing financial crisis.
Since Romania joined the EU on January 1, nearly 90 children from the poverty-stricken country have arrived on the steps of the town hall in Slough pleading for help.
The children, from the Roma community, do not arrive with adults, though some are as young as ten. Six have come with babies of their own while seven have been pregnant.
They have apparently made the journey across Europe unaccompanied.
The council is obliged to look after under-18s—providing them with accommodation, food and schooling—and the cost of caring for them is soaring.
The borough council has so far spent £150,000 setting up an emergency team to assist the children.
Most have only a rudimentary grasp of English, meaning the council has had to employ two Roma translators.
David Munkley, the council’s commissioner for education, said: “For those we are currently supporting it will cost the council around £500,000 over the full year. That includes costs such as accommodation, food and clothing.”
Council leader Richard Stokes believes the children have been deliberately sent to Slough after paying someone in their home country.
He said: “There have been 88 who have literally arrived on the town hall steps because they are told they will get a cordial reception in Slough.
“I don’t know who tells them that but Slough has always been a migrant town. The problem is we don’t have the financial resources to provide for them.”
He added: “It’s not a marginal problem, it’s a financial crisis.”
The arrival of the Roma children adds to an existing population crisis in Slough. Recently more than 1,000 homes across the borough were found to contain more than one family—usually from Eastern Europe or Somalia—and some houses had as many as 30 people living in them.
The health service is under extreme pressure and many GPs have closed their surgeries to new patients, while there are 82 different languages spoken in the borough’s schools.
The council is currently caring for 53 Roma children. Others have been placed with family members in other parts of the country.
A gang of about half-a-dozen Roma woman, some with toddlers in pushchairs, patrolled Slough High Street begging change from Saturday afternoon shoppers.
A man approached a Mail on Sunday reporter, waving a card with a message written in pidgin English and asking for cash to support his three children.
Slough has long been a centre for East European migrants. In the post-war years a number of refugee camps were built nearby to hold people who had arrived in Britain and did not want to return to Soviet-controlled Europe.
The Roma face persecution in many communities all over the world. They are believed to have originated in India though the largest population is now found on the Balkan peninsula, but particularly in Romania.